East Park may be best option for city garage
City leaders are continuing to narrow down their options for a new bus garage and public works facility site, and some differences in opinion have become apparent.
While the Perham planning commission is favoring a possible location referred to as ‘East Park’ (near Third Street NE and the Industrial Park), at least one city councilor and a resident who lives near the proposed site have expressed concerns.
The sites were discussed at a meeting of the city council and department heads at City Hall last Wednesday.
The planning commission had been looking into three possible locations: East Park, a currently unused portion of Arvig Park, and an area near the wastewater treatment ponds.
Fred Lehmkuhl, the planning commission representative on the council, said commissioners have basically ruled out the wastewater pond area as an option.
“There’s too much material down there that’s not compacted,” he explained, making the area unsuitable as an immediate building site.
While the Arvig Park location “seems ideal” in some ways, he said, the city would be taking 7 acres of parkland away to make room there for the garage, “and the commission felt it should remain as park space. They felt that Arvig Park should stay a park.”
That just leaves East Park, a 10.6-acre site just north of 3rd Street NE, between 7th Avenue NE and 450th Avenue (behind Lil’ Evil).
“This was the best option that we could come up with,” Lehmkuhl said.
He added that the planning commission believes the city garage could serve as a “buffer” between homes in that area and the larger industrial properties nearby. City leaders have agreed that no matter where the garage ends up being built, an effort will be made to make it as visually appealing as possible.
Nevertheless, one homeowner who lives next to the proposed site wasn’t thrilled about the idea. The man, who asked that his name not be used in the newspaper, worried that the city’s efforts to beautify the site wouldn’t be enough, and he added, “What about the truck noise and lights in the middle of the night?”
Others had questions, as well.
“I’m not crazy about the East Park location,” said councilor, Harriet Mattfeld. “We’d be putting this in somebody’s backyard... If we do put it there, what do we do about separating the residential from the commercial properties?”
“The East Park property has a lot of challenges” because of the surrounding properties, added City Manager Kelcey Klemm. “It would take some time (before it could be built on) – we’d have to get it platted and have a public hearing.”
The city would also have to work around the storm sewer line, he said.
Dave Neisen, the city’s building official, said he didn’t think noise would be too much of a problem, as the new garage will feature a “drive-in, drive-out” design, eliminating the need for backing up and the loud beeping that inevitably goes with that. Such a design would also help reduce the “chaos” that can sometimes be present during times of high traffic.
The lights being on at the facility during the night, however, and the headlights from plows, could not be avoided, though a tall fence or trees could reduce their impact on the neighborhood.
The homeowner at the meeting suggested putting a large berm around the residential side of the property, and then planting tall trees along that, in front of a nice-looking privacy fence.
“Let’s make it attractive and appealing,” he said. “I’m asking the city to take ownership of this and make it look nice.”
Councilors liked his idea.
“That’s our plan,” said Mayor Tim Meehl. “To make it user-friendly and friendly to our neighbors.”
Site possibilities for the garage will be discussed again at future meetings.